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A sea of people on their knees. Each individual, praying to a God that didn't seem to listen. The woman before them, their leader, had led them out into the barren wasteland known as the Validia desert. Though not by force, but by faith. Through her, God spoke his word. And her people. They listened. They all surrounded her in the circle, bowed heads in her direction. And there she sat at the center.
This was a planet much like Earth but still different to its core. The days lasted twice that of a normal day on earth and the nights half. Weather so unbearable that their tribe lost a man a day to the heat. But with lack of resources, the body did not last long. In this desert, there laid but one oasis. Being in no man's land, the strongest gained control. And control of water, meant control of the land.
Rising to her feet, the tattered remains of what was once an elegant dress hung off of her slender body. Eladia Ryen. Prophet of her Chosen disciples. She spread her word to all those that could listen. “Our Gods have spoken to us. These heathens across the waters. We've attempted to show them our way. And they have greeted us with violence and resistance. Up until this time, we have ignored it. We are to treat others as we've wished to be treated. To show them every ounce of respect and love that we would show a brother. This will be no more. For the Gods are angry. Their wrath will be shown through us.” Her hand gestured to the back of the large circle. A small crowd of people were herded like cattle through the mass.
“The faithless have no place among us. These infidels have been delivered. Crossed into our own lands. Lands granted to us by the grace of our God's. Let us pray.” Held to the ground at gunpoint, some of the few weapons they had armed themselves with before their exile from the mainland, the prisoners’ faces were pressed into the burning sand. Their screams echoed through the empty desert. Ignored by those before them.
“O divine, we come to you. Humble and ready to serve. We ask that you forgive us for our sins. Present, past, and the ones we will commit in the future. We do all in your name. We come to you now to pray that you bless the flesh that we are to consume. It is bathed in sin and we ask that you please make it clean. We ask for strength in your upcoming battles so that we may overcome any challenges that you give to us. In the Holy word of the Divine, we pray. Amen.” And the people swarmed.
Held together by the twine of dead vines found near the oasis, a crown of small bones sat atop Eladia’s head. She would never be known as a Queen. Those that claimed such a title were blasphemers in their own right. They were destined for a special place in Hell, tortured by the same servants they had once ruled over. The bones that begot her crown were merely a symbol of her purity, innocence, and the sacrifice demanded by the Gods. One sacrifice in particular. A reminder that there will always be a beginning, and if necessary, an end.
Pools of blue casted down upon the dripping organ held in the Reverend’s hands. Eladia’s most loyal follower, he had killed and followed without question, had consumed and in turn, been consumed by the evil that the woman preached. For if anyone doubted Eladia’s gift of divine fortune, they could not deny her gift with words. The sickening sound of the tearing of flesh and the cracking of bones fell into the background as she took her first bite. In that moment, she was no different than the savages that surrounded her. Her hunger overwhelmed her senses. Etiquette and pride swallowed down, like the heart in her hand.
Lips stained with blood and teeth smeared with the same liquid to match, curled into an eerie smirk as she watched her people succumb to their darkest nature. This was what the Gods had demanded. The only way to take their beloved Promised Land away from the cesspool of heathens that laid just across. Today they would send a message. Little did she know that they had received it much too quickly.
“Eat to your heart’s content. We will no longer be extending our resources. Tonight we feast because our Gods will it. We will catch, capture, kill. No more prisoners. No more mercy. In two days time, we will attack.” The crowd clamored around her but she narrowed her sights on the man who stood before her.
“Azure.” Her thumb, now sticky with drying crimson, slid along his forehead. Dirt and blood mixed to create a dark burgundy cross on his skin. “I know nothing of war. The God’s are aware of such things. As a result, they have granted me the choice of a General. You have been the most loyal. And no one has sacrificed more to this cause than you.” She bore a part of his sacrifice on top of her head. A daughter that he would never know. Eladia let him stare up at the crown, face to face with his pain.
“Will you help me, old friend? Will you help your people? Lead our men? But more importantly, will you fight for your Gods?”
There would be no denying her. To deny this woman was to deny God. With his head bowed, Azure took his title. The new General for an army of monstrous men. And even still he wouldn't be the biggest monster among them.